In a bid to claim a judgement sum of N10.03 million from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, a Lagos businessman, Chief Adisa Sowemimo, has commenced garnishee proceeding against the anti-graft agency.
Chief Sowemimo is urging a federal high court sitting in Lagos, southwest Nigeria, to issue a garnishee order Nisi attaching the funds of EFCC in five commercial banks and Central Bank of Nigeria to satisfy the said judgment sum. N10,030,000 was awarded against EFCC sometimes in April last year for violation of the plaintiff’s right.
An Associate professor of law, Akin Ibidapo Obe, wrote a petition to EFCC against the applicant, complaining that the plaintiff failed to pay his professional fee of N7.4 million. He further stated that the applicant agreed to pay him from the N15 million judgment sum that he recovered for the applicant in the case he filed against Dangote Nigeria Limited.
However, having failed to pay the professional fee as agreed, the applicant allegedly converted criminally the N7.4 to himself, as the applicant collected the judgment sum of N15 million from the court but upon demand for his outstanding legal fees, the applicant denied owing him any money, claiming he had completely paid for his services.
Consequently, Professor Obey alleged further that the applicant, by false pretence and with intent to defraud, converted the N7.4 million to himself which is contrary to section 1 (1C) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other related offences Act 2006 and therefore, the EFCC should investigate the matter and not allow the applicant to dissipate the said N15 million without paying his professional fee.
Based on the petition, the EFCC then set in motion machinery to investigate and arrest the applicant for the fraudulent allegations. EFCC’s Operatives visited the premises of Chief Sowemimo at 2/4, Adisa Sowemimo Street, Onireke, Opposite Trade Fair, Lagos. The anti-graft agency claimed that the applicant could not be found and the premises is an uncompleted building and unoccupied, but the applicant claimed that EFCC agents in his absence drove his family members out of the premises including his workers that were working on the upper floor of the building without lawful authority and sealed up the premises with a padlock in order to halt the progress of work being carried out and consequently, he could not enter his house from 25 February, 2009 till 5 September, 2010.
Chief Sowemimo also averred that as a result of the unlawful act of EFCC, the building materials kept in the premises and other household materials got exposed to sun, rain and burglars, thereby causing him financial losses and hardship as himself and his family became refugees.
Chief Sowemimo then urged the court not only to declare the act of EFCC unconstitutional, illegal, null and void but to also compel the agency to pay him N10 million as general damages as well as N1 million as the cost of this suit.
In his judgment, Justice Okon Abang, while awarding the sum of N10 million as damages and N30,000 as the cost of instituting the suit in favour of Chief Sowemimo, describe the unilateral action of EFCC and its agents in sealing off the applicant’s premises as primitive, uncivilized, crude, unconstitutional and gross abuse of official power.
Justice Abang further said “I do not know how the applicant committed a criminal offence in refusing to pay his counsel his professional fee as alleged. Assuming he was indeed indebted to the said counsel, refusal or inability to pay professional fees cannot amount to fraudulent conversion of the applicant’s N15 million legitimate earnings that will warrant the EFCC inviting the applicant or looking for him to arrest for purpose of investigation.
There is evidence before me that the applicant and his immediate family members were rendered homeless not because there is civil disturbance or civil war in Nigeria, that building materials in the premises were exposed to sun, some destroyed and stolen.